Monday, January 27, 2014

Studying the Book of James

What book of the Bible is your favorite?

Where do you turn for comfort in the Word?

Where do you turn for advice?

I turn to the Psalms for comfort and to the book of James for advice. A while back, I led a weekly Bible Study on the book of James.

Below are the PDFs of my lessons. They aren't perfect, but they might help you dig deeper into the book of James.

James chapter 1-The first chapter of James talks about three main things: what to do when faced with trials (v. 1-4, 12), the nature of God (5-8, 13-18), and the behavior of believers (9-11, 19-27). 
James chapter 2-James has two main points in the second chapter: favoritism shouldn’t be in the lives of believers and our faith & our actions are unable to be split apart (or inseparable). 
James chapter 3-The third chapter of James talks about Tongues (It is incredibly difficult to control the tongue, but we need to daily work towards taming it...even if it won’t be fully tamed until we reach heaven) and wisdom (We need to test “wisdom” that we get to be sure that it’s from heaven).
James chapter 4-James has three main points in the forth chapter: our motives need to be pure when asking for things (v. 1-3), we are to humbly submit ourselves to God and not judge (v. 4-12), and live like tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  
James chapter 5-James chapter 5 has 3 points as well: the first preaching point is to live justly, point number two is to be productively patient, and the third point is to pray for each other.

I love the book of James. It has so much practical instructions on how to live. I encourage you to read through the book (it's only 5 chapters) and apply its instructions to your life!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Growing in 2014

On the evening of the 2nd day of 2014 (also known as the 9th day of Christmas), I got around to reflecting on my goals for 2014.

I know for the next 9 months, my goals will revolve around our Costa Rican seminary. Their goals are our goals. Our work is on their campus. This will be the case until the end of September.

Then we will be back in the States, with many unknowns. We don't know what jobs we will have or what type of residence. We don't know what city we will live in. We don't even know what state we will reside in.

It's a lot of unknowns, but this is our time to dream.
Will we live in a city of refuge, working with new immigrants?
Will we live in a college town, helping international students?
Will we live on a campground, guiding church campers?
Will we end up in a tiny house or a house to welcome company?
Will we end up in a studio apartment or our own home?
Will we split a duplex or continue to rent?
Will I have a garden or no yard?
Can we make it with only one car?

As I reflect on my goals for 2014, I come up with several goals, for the next 9 months and beyond.

Goals for in Costa Rica:
1. Improve in Spanish listening comprehension, especially in church.
2. Even though my spouse is extroverted & I am introverted, talk more with people at church.
3. Bake breads & cookies to share with neighbors.

Goals for After Costa Rica:
1. Know where we will live (city, state, type of home).
2. Get a meaningful job that I enjoy.
3. Be hospitable.

Goals for 2014:
1. Memorize the Sermon on the Mount, then live it out.
2. Take time to walk outside, to observe sunsets, and rest.
3. Study, read, and live out the Gospels.
4. Study & implement what the Bible says about treating the poor.

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Would Life be Like With the 3rd Year Tithe?

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and dreamed what life would be like if we actually implemented it?

I wonder what would life be like if we actually followed Deuteronomy 14:28-29?

What if in churches, every 3 years our year's tithes went not for church maintenance, but for our preacher's salary and to feed the foreigners, fatherless, and widows?

Would people ask why we were doing this?
Would we have an answer for why we do this?
Would we be generous to all who come and trust God will deal with scammers?
Would our eyes be opened to the plights & struggles in our hometown?
Would we dread or welcome the third year?
What would life be like if we lived this?

What scripture do you dream of seeing lived out?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christian Living-Doing Hospitality

I've been doing this hospitality thing wrong. Invited guests never saw the excessive cleaning and organizing that preceded their arrival, nor did they see the many dishes I cleaned up afterwards. That's because I viewed hospitality as "entertaining." So I would fix specialty foods that would take a long time to buy, prepare, cook, and clean.

I wouldn't enjoy the company as much as I could, because I was thinking of the work afterwards.

Liz's new hospitality plan:
-simple foods
-minimal dishes
-accept help when offered
-remember people aren't coming over to see my house's cleanliness, but my hubby and me.

After all, as a believer, I am encouraged to offer hospitality
without grumbling
to strangers
as my common practice

I am very grateful for my previous home. We have a man cave-den-guest bedroom, so we can open our homes to friends and family needing someplace to crash. We have a small table that extends out to welcome many. We have many kitchen appliances to make our food preparation easier. We have a desire to allow people into our home.

For this, I am blessed.

How do you do hospitality? What is your ideal way of doing hospitality?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My 12 Days of Christmas

This year, our Christmas time was unique, to say the least. After 3 months in Costa Rica, we were back for a visit our family and friends for 3 weeks. The next time we will be in the US will be in September 2014.

Every day, at least one of us had at least 1 visit with friends or family.

On the 1st day of Christmas (the 25th), we celebrated Christmas with my hubby's immediate family and saw both sets of parents.
On the 2nd day of Christmas (the 26th), we spent time with a good friend who lives in Chicago.
On the 3rd day of Christmas (the 27th), we dined with friends at 2 restaurants near my parents.
On the 4th day of Christmas (the 28th), we had an extended family Christmas with my mom's relatives.
On the 5th day of Christmas (the 29th), we spoke at a church and had an extended family Christmas with my dad's relatives.
On the 6th day of Christmas (the 30th), we chatted with my prior youth pastor.
On the 7th day of Christmas (the 31st), we  dined with my prior ROOMIE!! and went to a godly, holy, & hilarious New Year's Eve party.
On the 8th day of Christmas (the 1st), we rested & I had coffee with a sweet, sweet friend.
On the 9th day of Christmas (the 2nd), we had coffee and dinner with two dear friends.
On the 10th day of Christmas (the 3rd), we had coffee and lunch with three dear friends, and I finally got to see my sister (and the Hobbit part 2) & celebrate our final Christmas for 2013.
On the 11th day of Christmas (the 4th), we lunched with family and holed up near the airport waiting on flight information.
On the 12th day of Christmas (the 5th), we spent the day hovering between 2 hotel rooms and visiting/watching movies as a family.
On the 13th day of Christmas (the 6th), we repeated the events of day 12 and watched for our flight news. We did not head back to Costa Rica on this day, but we did enjoy our time with our parents & staying warm.

But I cannot forget all of our visits before the first day of Christmas.
On the -8th day of Christmas (the 17th), we arrived in the US
On the -7th day of Christmas (the 18th), we celebrated our anniversary, saw & hugged our parents, and visited our church family.
On the -6th day of Christmas (the 19th), we dined with my hubby's best friend & his wife.
On the -5th day of Christmas (the 20th), we dined with mission-minded & precious friends.
On the -4th day of Christmas (the 21st), we dined with my exercise-dance class-instructor & her son.
On the -3rd day of Christmas (the 22nd), we were with our church family and spoke of our ministry.
On the -2nd day of Christmas (the 23rd), we dined with family, I shopped with a delightful friend, and exercised with friends.
On the -1st day of Christmas (the 24th), I had tea with a friend and we celebrated Christmas with my husband's extended family.

You may notice that many of our celebrations involved food. It is wonderful to catch up over coffee, to swap stories over supper, and spend time with friends sharing stories and food.

How did you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Missionaries are Mere Mortals

There's a rumor floating around that missionaries are super-Christians & somehow spiritually above the rest of the mortal Christians. This, dear brothers & sisters, is a lie.

Missionaries sometimes miss or skip their devotionals.

Missionaries sometimes feel empty, dry, or far from God.

Missionaries sometimes lose their tempers and react in anger.

Missionaries sometimes misplace their Bibles.

Missionaries sometimes try to complete things on their own strength and miserably fail.

Missionaries sometimes forget to pray.

Missionaries sometimes don't feel like doing their work.

You see, missionaries are mere mortals. We are sinners still, striving to do God's work. We stumble & fail. We drop the ball. We mess up.

But God is bigger than our shortcomings. He wants willing vessels, not perfect ones (which is good since there are no perfect humans since that Nazarene rabbi a while back).